• Germany's news in English
 

Karneval – the glossary

Published: 07 Feb 2013 06:07 GMT+01:00

Because of its ancient traditions, Karneval has preserved a vocabulary that would otherwise have fallen victim to the German language’s natural selection. Some phrases are old dialect versions of medieval greetings, to be screamed across swarms of costumed drunkards, others are archaic names for specific things. Here is a cross-section, with The Local’s explanations.

Alaaf! – A Karneval greeting in the Cologne dialect. Like all Karneval greetings, it originates from trying to say something else while inhibited with drink. In this case, it is an alcoholic derivative of “alles ab” or “everything gone,” but can be used to mean “Cologne above all else” in Kölle alaaf! Context provides meaning.

Büttenrede – A rhyming speech mainly given during the variety shows known as Karnevalssitzungen. The Bütte is the lectern from which they are delivered. The tradition, like everything else Karneval-related, is old Christian, harking back to a time when the Büttenrede was used to utter blasphemies punishable by maiming any other time of year. Germans often like to mark festive occasions with rhyming couplets. But not raps.

Gürzenich – A beautiful late medieval hall in Cologne annually ransacked by Karneval-goers, like latter-day Vikings on a raid. One of Cologne’s Karneval societies hosts a huge Karnevalssitzungen here that is televised nationally.

Helau! – Düsseldorf’s Karneval greeting, used in many places including Mainz, and either derived from “Hallelujah” or “Hello.”

Lecker Mädche – Hot chick/fit bird, in the Cologne dialect. Not strictly a Karneval-related term, but one that is often used at this resolutely old-fashioned and over-sexualised event. Simone de Beauvoir would have felt mostly out of place.

Morgestraich – A nocturnal parade held in Basel, Switzerland, one of the few Karneval towns with a Protestant history.

Narrenrufe – The collective term for the many Karneval greetings liable to be barked at you out on the streets. Alaaf! and Helau! are the most common, because they come from the two biggest Karneval cities, but there are almost as many variations on “Hello” as there are Karneval towns. Literally, a Narrenruf is the cry of an idiot.

Narrensprung – The Fool’s Leap, a traditional procession of leaping fools in the town of Rottweil.

Quetschenbüggel – This Dr. Seussian word is an old Rhineland term for a concertina. If you are not fond of jolly concertina music, Karneval is no place for you.

S'goht degege! – An obscure old-German saying, deriving from “Es geht dagegen!” (it goes against…) Whether it means against a wall or your principles, it can be used as a sort of bestial howl to be cried out repeatedly until euphoria turns to despair and you start telling total strangers that you love them and you’ve wasted your life.

Zunft – Another word for a Karnevalsverein, the clubs and societies that organise Karneval events.

Ben Knight (ben.knight@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'
Sudeten Germans practising traditional dance at a gathering in 2014. Photo: DPA

Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'

The Sudeten German Homeland Association has given up its claim to the group's former home in parts of the Czech Republic, quieting one of the final echoes of the Second World War. READ  

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan
Families Minister Manuela Schwesig. Photo: DPA

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan

Families Minister Manuela Schwesig confirmed on Sunday that she wants a new law allowing women to compare their wages with men doing similar work, provoking angry reactions from employers. READ  

Police wind down Bremen terror response
Heavily-armed police on patrol outside Bremen cathedral. Photo: DPA

Police wind down Bremen terror response

Police in Bremen said that the risk of a terrorist attack had been reduced in the city after they arrested two suspected arms dealers. The city remains under high alert, with special protection for the Jewish community. READ  

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone
Photo: DPA

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Sunday Greece's new hard-left government needs "a bit of time" but is committed to implementing necessary reforms to resolve its debt crisis. READ  

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo
Photo: DPA

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo

An estimated 375 people turned out for the Germany-based PEGIDA movement's first demonstration in Britain on Saturday, but were outnumbered by a 2,000-strong crowd of counter-protesters, police said. READ  

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote
Photo: DPA

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed Friday to "start working hard" to implement vital reforms in the stricken eurozone country, after Germany's parliament approved a four month extension to its bailout. READ  

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce
Photo: DPA

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared the killing of three government troops by pro Moscow rebels a "serious breach of the ceasefire", during a telephone call Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her office said. READ  

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps
Trouble at the top. Photo: DPA

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps

Germany's highest civil court ruled in favour of a man who swapped the carpet in his new apartment for parquet flooring, incurring the wrath of the retired couple who lived below him over his loud footsteps. READ  

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday
Photo: DPA

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday

Teachers all over the country are expected to stike starting Monday, German education trade union GEW said, after negotiations with the wage commission of the federal states (TdL) failed to achieve results. READ  

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes
Andre Shepherd at the European Court of Justice in June 2014. Photo: DPA

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes

American soldier Andre Shepherd, who applied for asylum in Germany as a conscientious objector against the war in Iraq after going AWOL from his unit, saw a judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) go against him on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Germany
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,172
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd